A device to spot melanoma skin cancer just won the international James Dyson Award

Emma Haslett
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The device costs a fraction of its predecessors (Source: Dyson)

The inventors of a device which could prevent thousands of deaths by easily spotting melanoma skin cancer has been awarded the prestigious international James Dyson award.

The SKan device uses heat detection to allow doctors to identify melanoma accurately, at a fraction of the current cost.

Current early diagnostic methods for melanoma rely on visual inspections, which are inaccurate, or more advanced method which is time consuming or expensive.

The SKan, which was invented by four engineering undergraduates at McMaster University in Canada, works by analysing the length of time it takes for cells suspected of being cancerous to return to normal temperature after they are cooled: because they have a faster metabolic rate, cancerous cells give off more heat.

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Image source: Dyson

The device costs less than $1,000 (£760), compared with £20,000 for high-resolution thermal imaging cameras currently available, and could save thousands of lives by confirming the presence of cancer before biopsy procedures, the team said.

“By using widely available and inexpensive components, the sKan allows for melanoma skin cancer detection to be readily accessible to the many. It’s a very clever device," said James Dyson.

The team said they will use the £30,000 they win from the award to continue developing the device.

"We are truly humbled and excited to be given this remarkable opportunity," they said.

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